New Life




Psalm 23

Sergel Nikolaevich Bulgakove writes: “The Church of Christ is not an institution, it is a new life with Christ and in Christ guided by the Holy Spirit.”

In my anniversary Bible I have a hundred or so signatures of those who are “Church” , and only around ten or so belong to the institutional church. In fact  a number of people who attended my anniversary event had not darkened door of the institutional church in years, and they avoid those  doors as if they were rattle snakes. One said to me as she was leaving, “Only out of my deep respect for you did I come tonight.”

The institutional church kicked me out when I simply questioned  my sexuality, some hundred of my so called clergy friends literally turned their backs on me,  and I came back kicking and screaming because God made sure to continually remind me that my call to ministry was in my mom’s womb, not dictated by an institution. 

I became a whore in rebellion, I did things I would never have thought I would do,  and yet, God pushed me back. I love the Church with all of my heart, and I hear the words of Dorothy Day: “The Church is both our mother and  a whore.” I have had only three clergy friends in all of these years, because I scare others. And it is not their fault totally, I speak my peace, I look weird, and I hang out with a group of kids that no none wants around.

When I was sick last year one clergy, who did not know me, but who  by assumption , kept me at a distance from the church I associate with, and several of its members assisted me “undercover”,  helping me, and the successor has done everything in her power to make me comfortable again, but the pain from that time lingers, I am always on edge, so trust the institution–I do not,  the body of Christ are  those who feed the hungry, take care of the sick and afflicted etc, that is the Church.

I baptized and  confirmed five young men and women two weeks ago in Golden Gate Park. Not one of them feel welcome in the institutional church, but  wanted baptism and confirmation. They are a part of the younger group who see being the church out side of the institution.

I am reading a book entitled Elderhood by Dr. Louise Aronson, in which she describes the discrimination against people as they age, and the elderly. Her thesis is that artificial boundaries are placed on aging, and as a result people are pushed aside, and seen as not useful, and medical treatment discriminates.

The former Mayor of Chicago wrote a thesis which in which he  suggests  that medical treatment for people over 70 should be simply to keep them comfortable, since we have to many elderly people. My question to him is: “When you get 70, what will you say then?’ My hunch is the age will be moved up until at least 80, and if he is successful in reaching 80–to one hundred. As for me I am planning to live until I am a thousand, and not have a gray hair on my head.

We label people because of our fears, and not understanding them. People are always surprised when they hear me preach, or see the liturgies I use–I am very orthodox, in fact evangelical, but judge me by my appearance,  and in so doing we limit ourselves, and close the doors to real caring and understanding.

A few days after my surgery I had a donor say to me: “Why do you have seventeen and eighteen year olds caring for you?” and I replied dead pan to her email with the words, “Well you want to come in an help me in a more mature way?” I did not hear from this person again until I was well. It was my seventeen and eighteen year old friends who frankly saved me. Maturity? Maturity is in how we care for another. Those guys cared for me from the bottom of their heart, without being asked–that is real maturity.

I  never tell  my age because people  make judgments, in court, to newspapers, I always age myself by 20-30  years, and enjoy the humor,  and when I am carried into St. Luke’s, and placed into my burial spot the only labels  I want on my  plaque are  “A priest in the Order of Melchizedek”, and the date of my death. Two labels–Christian and priest, are the two by which I name myself. All else do not matter.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“In the Gospels, Jesus speaks poignantly about our welcoming the stranger. Jesus’ generous welcome to everyone is remembered in the Greek as philonexia, which is “the love of strangers.” Philonexia becomes the New Testament norm for hospitality. We must welcome the stranger so that the stranger is no longer strange to us.”

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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